By Jim Jordal

 Remember, O Jehovah, what is come upon us: Behold, and see our reproach. Our inheritance is turned unto strangers, Our houses unto aliens. We are orphans and fatherless; Our mothers are as widows. We have drunken our water for money; Our wood is sold unto us. Our pursuers are upon our necks: We are weary, and have no rest…Our fathers sinned, and are not; And we have borne their iniquities. Servants rule over us: There is none to deliver us out of their hand. We get our bread at the peril of our lives…

Lamentations of Jeremiah 5:1-9a, ASV

To thoughtful students of history it appears as if everything in society—institutions, structures, values, behaviors, morals—is spinning rapidly out of control. The progression seems to be geometric (1-2-4-8-16), as it feeds upon itself to grow exponentially larger. But the institutions and structures available for controlling the many threatening consequences of this exploding growth curve seem in short supply, probably because they grow in an arithmetic (1-2-3-4-5) fashion.

Think about it. With every new invention or procedure comes a host of spin-off problems requiring some form of regulation or control. Think of the internet, its explosive growth, and the unexpected appearance of cyber-criminals able to exploit the public almost at will. Are control mechanisms able to keep up? It’s as if every new "app" requires more apps to keep it within acceptable limits. And then there’s medical care, with new discoveries almost daily, but in a society with little ability to pay for their dissemination to a large portion of consumers.

So we have a zero-sum game pitting everyone and every institution against everyone else. With winners there must be losers. With success there must be failure. With victory there must be defeat. It’s everyone pitted in mortal combat against all others to gain their share and then preserve it against hordes of financial leeches trying to steal it. What one person or group gains must of necessity be taken in some manner from someone else. So we have greed celebrated as the natural outcome of these efforts and the pinnacle of economic and financial success. It’s taking rather than sharing; conflict rather than cooperation, and eternal struggle rather than lasting peace. No wonder the social "glue" that holds our nation together is peeling away.

The prophet Jeremiah also experienced times like these. His nation was in chaos under attack and eventual enslavement by the powerful hordes of Babylon. His people were destroyed, as was most of his culture. The situation appeared hopeless, except for the intervening mercy of God. But that was not to come for about 70 years, or until the people returned to their Lord. As Jeremiah described it, the people had lost their inheritance and their homes to oppressors and their fathers to death in battle. They had to pay for their drinking water and their firewood. And they labored ceaselessly without rest and earned their bread at the risk of their lives. Pretty sad, no?

But then they began to understand that their unfortunate plight was related to the sins of their fathers, who had ignored the commands of God for national righteousness, justice and mercy. "We bear their iniquities," as Jeremiah said. Their calamity didn’t just happen: it was caused by their idolatry and disobedience.

Today we as a nation pay for the sins of ourselves and of our fathers. We have massive amounts of goods and hordes of inventions aimed at making life easier. But is our life really any better? Amid all our benefits and luxuries we as a nation live in perpetual fear—of war, disease, death, job loss, unpaid bills, illness, debility, old age, financial collapse, school shootings, and about every other fear you can imagine. And there is a cause, except that we haven’t yet gained enough sense to listen.

The cause of our malaise is the same as that of Jeremiah’s nation: injustice, greed, cruelty, hate, idolatry, perversions of every sort and, especially serious, the oppression of vulnerable people. And the oppressing power is also the same as the one that tortured Jeremiah’s people—the domination system known then as the Babylonian Empire and now as the Babylonian system. The system maintains its power through controlling the supply of money so that there is never enough for the people to gain complete freedom.

There is never enough to transfer the blessings of civilization to all citizens. The supply of money always lags behind the need of the people, then and now. As the needs of the public rapidly outstrip available resources we can begin to accept God’s answer to our problem: Do what Jesus and the prophets advocated concerning justice, mercy and love.